Hucknall Sports Football Club offered lifeline chance to stay on home pitches

Hucknall Sports football club have been presented with a lifeline in their bid to continue using the pitches where they play their home games – but a final deal is yet to be struck.

Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 3:35 pm
The pitches off Kenbrook Road in Hucknall are at the centre of the controversy

The Dispatch broke news last week of what some were calling an ‘eviction’ from the club’s current pitches on the Papplewick Green Playing Fields off Kenbrook Road in the town.

Ashfield District Council which owns the land, had taken the stance as it looked to arrange a short-term management agreement with the locally-based community interest company and a non-profit organisation, Sports Gateway, which is currently based at the Rolls-Royce Leisure site in Hucknall.

Sports Gateway recently submitted a planning application, the majority of which has now been withdrawn, to build a 3G pitch and associated storage on the site.

What followed was a huge outpouring of public outcry against the council decision.

More than 6,000 people signed an online petition calling on the authority to reverse its decision.

A ‘Fill The Pitch’ protest was also lined up for this Sunday, July 18, in a bid to demonstrate the depth of feeling among Hucknall residents.

Now Ashfield District Council, after working behind the scenes, has said it has come up with a plan in a bid to satisfy all parties.

Theresa Hodgkinson, director for place and communities, said: “After discussions with the clubs, the council has found a resolution which means Hucknall Sports have now been offered their original preference.

“As part of the annual application process, the council has now been able to offer to accommodate Hucknall Sports on their preferred site.

"Hucknall Sports have been offered Papplewick Green going forward on Saturdays and Sundays as requested, along with nearby Titchfield Park and the Merlin site.

“We have worked with partners to ensure as many of our facilities are available to as many clubs, organisations and individuals as possible to increase participation in sport, including football, across the district.

“Active talks will continue with all parties.”

The council statement means that talks are ongoing and no full deal has been secured.

Sports have been running for more than 40 years and have worked with thousands of local children, including the likes of Forest star Joe Worrall, who started his footballing journey with the club.

It is also not known if the ‘Fill The Pitch’ event will go ahead.

Earlier this week, one of those involved, Richard Darrington - the well-known owner of the town’s Byron’s Rest and chief at the former Empire Club – said: “My lads have played for Hucknall Sports. Children’s football is vital for the stability of children, without that in their lives it’s a void that could be taken by other things that are not good.

"I can’t blame a business seeing an opportunity. I think the issue is with the council. This is different, when you start involving children’s football it is personal.”

Hucknall Sports, a registered charity, previously played at the Wigwam Lane Playing Fields which were controversially sold off for housing despite a covenant protecting them for open space recreation.

The pitches and changing rooms off Kenbrook Road were built as a condition of planning permission for the housing.

The Dispatch has made contact with the club and Sports Gateway to get their views on the latest development.

Follow the Dispatch website for updates.